Column : Endgame Kejriwal

When challengers have taken on incumbents in washing powder, auto & airlines businesses, customers have benefited

It is a strange time for Indian politics. The agenda appears to be set by a relative outsider and newcomer. Switch on any news channel or open the front page of any newspaper, and much of the coverage is taken up by Arvind Kejriwal and his IAC team, a classic case of a 'challenger' attacking the 'incumbents', offering many parallels with and lessons for the business world.

If we step back and look at what Kejriwal and his IAC team are doing, we see they have adopted a classic guerrilla strategy of someone without many advantages and resources to attack the well-established 'incumbents'. Find the weak spots of your opponents and attack hard and get them to react instinctively, without much thought, the natural reaction of the leader under attack. The challenger then withdraws and keeps everyone in suspense on where the next attack will be launched. They do enough to keep in the limelight and keep their opponents unsettled and on tenterhooks, dissipating energy in waiting to react rather than planning to win.

These challengers, whether they are the kind who operate in the jungles when waging war against the state or in the market when waging war against market leaders, have one thing in common. They change the rules of the game and in doing so often change the game forever. We saw that happen in the washing powder market in India when Nirma attacked the market leader Hindustan Lever, or Bharat Forge in the global truck axle market. Unfortunately, wars are often a zero sum game. They have winners and losers, or end up in a stalemate with no winners. In either case, the overall 'system', which comprises both the players and their environment, lose. If they are countries, they have to rebuild their economies. And if they are companies, they have to rebuild their profitability.

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